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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
Nathan came to David as if to ask his judicial decision on the case about to be submitted to him (compare 2 Samuel 14:2-11; 1 Kings 20:35-41). The circumstances of the story are exquisitely contrived to heighten the pity of David for the oppressed, and his indignation against the oppressor 1 Samuel 25:13, 1 Samuel 25:22.
2The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
3But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
4And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
5And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
6And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
Fourfold - The exact number prescribed by the Law (see the marginal references), and acted upon by Zaccheus. The Septuagint has "sevenfold," as in Proverbs 6:31.
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
8And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
And thy master's wives ... - According to Eastern custom, the royal harem was a part of the royal inheritance. The prophets spoke in such matters according to the received opinions of their day, and not always according to the abstract rule of right. (Compare Matthew 19:4-9.)
9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.
See the marginal references. In both the points of David's crime the retribution was according to his sin. His adultery was punished by Absalom's outrage, his murder by the bloodshed of domestic fights, which cost the lives of at least three of his favorite sons, Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah.
12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
For a comment on David's words, read Psalm 51; Psalm 32:1-11.
Thou shalt not die - Not spoken of the punishment of death as affixed to adultery by the Mosaic Law: the application of that law Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22; John 8:5 to an absolute Eastern monarch was out of the question. The death of the soul is meant (compare Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:13, Ezekiel 18:18).
14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.
16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.
The death of the infant child of one of the numerous harem of an Oriental monarch would in general be a matter of little moment to the father. The deep feeling shown by David on this occasion is both an indication of his affectionate and tender nature, and also a proof of the strength of his passion for Bath-sheba. He went into his most private chamber, his closet Matthew 6:6, and "lay upon the earth" 2 Samuel 13:31, rather "the ground," meaning the floor of his chamber as opposed to his couch.
17And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.
18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?
19But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.
20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.
21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.
22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?
23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
24And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.
Solomon - Or "peaceable," a name given to him at his circumcision. Compare Luke 1:59. The giving of the name Jedidiah, by the Lord through Nathan, signified God's favor to the child, as in the cases of Abraham, Sarah, and Israel. The name Jedidiah (which contains the same root as the name David, namely, "to love") indicated, prophetically, what God's Providence brought about actually, namely, the succession and glorious reign of Solomon over Israel.
25And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.
26And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city.
27And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.
The city of waters - The lower town of Rabbah (the modern Ammam), so called from a stream which rises within it and flows through it. The upper town with the citadel lay on a hill to the north of the stream, and was probably not tenable for any length of time after the supply of water was cut off.
28Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city, and it be called after my name.
29And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it.
30And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance.
Their king's crown - The word rendered their king (Malcham) is also the name of the national idol of the Ammonites (Jeremiah 49:1, Jeremiah 49:3 margin; Amos 1:15; Zephaniah 1:5). Moreover, the weight of the crown, which is calculated to be equal to 100 or 125 pounds weight, is far too great for a man to wear. On the whole, it seems most probable that the idol Malcam is here meant.
31And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.
For the saw as an implement of torture compare Hebrews 11:37.
Harrows of iron - Or rather thrashing-machines (Isaiah 28:27; Isaiah 41:15, etc.).
Axes - The word so rendered occurs only here and in 1 Chronicles 20:3. It evidently means some cutting instrument.
Made them pass through the brick-kiln - The phrase is that always used of the cruel process of making their children pass through the fire to Moloch, and it is likely that David punished this idolatrous practice by inflicting something similar upon the worshippers of Moloch. The cruelty of these executions belongs to the barbarous manners of the age, and was provoked by the conduct of the Ammonites 2 Samuel 10:1-4; 1 Samuel 11:1-2, but is utterly indefensible under the light of the Gospel. If Rabbah was taken before David's penitence, he may have been in an unusually harsh and severe frame of mind. The unpleasant recollection of Uriah's death would be likely to sour and irritate him to the utmost.